This week, gender equality issues have been all over the press, social media and in my personal life. I thought Emma Watson’s UN speech was absolutely fantastic and I truly believe in the HeForShe campaign. It’s about time that men supported women in achieving equal rights and it’s about time that we all stopped living trapped in the confines of gender stereotypes.
But why do we have these stereotypes? And what can we do to ensure our children can live in a gender neutral world?
Most of our ideas of gender roles will be cemented in childhood. How does my family unit work? Who cooks the dinner, who takes out the bins? Is there a prominent care giver and a hunter-gatherer?
Each family will have a different set up and roles which need to be in place to a certain extent. But it’s the attitudes to those roles that interests me. Is it that one parent is responsible for taking out the bins, but the other parent is responsible for reminding them to do so? If one parent is at work while the other brings up the children, who makes their tea when they’re both there? And things become even more complicated when the parents are separated.
As a part of the HeForShe campaign, I would like to see a shift towards a more equal split of parental responsibility. And not just in the financial or time share sense. In my opinion, there’s nothing more refreshing than a father who takes an active role in the ‘children chores’, without being prompted.
I’m sure I’m going to get a massive backlash from those privileged ladies who’s husbands can soothe a baby, hoover the living room and make the dinner all at once, and I’m not saying those men don’t exist (although I would quite like to meet one). But in the UK, we haven’t quite moved away from the outdated image of women as mothers and housekeepers; even though we are well educated and having fantastic careers, while still having families. But of the many working mothers that I know, they will still be the ones called from work when their child is sick, will still be juggling motherhood woes and work commitments more than their male counterparts.
This piece in not intended to be negative about men. It’s also not a sweeping statement about men. There are many men (my father included) that do more than their fair share around the house. This is intended for those men that don’t turn up for their scheduled visits. That come home from work and put their feet up as if there’s nothing else to be done. That complain that the women in their lives do nothing but nag about laundry, homework and exhaustion (I mean, what do they do all day?!?!).
By entering into a relationship, sharing a home, having children- you are taking on a responsibility whether you are male or female. All I’m saying is, the responsibility (and the rewards) should be half yours, half mine. You’re just as capable as seeing the bin is overflowing or that the sink is full of dishes. You’re just as capable of nipping out on your lunch break to pick up a nit comb or making sure that tomorrow’s lunch boxes are filled. But also that you’re just as important to the family. Children deserve to have two supportive parents, whether they are together or not.
Maybe the way to support gender equality is through encouraging a healthy idea of gender roles for our children. Being parents that work together as a team and share roles and responsibilities, regardless of whether you live in the same house. Demonstrating to your children that you can achieve in any career path or family set up that you choose as long as you work hard. And that you don’t have to cook the dinner just because you’re a girl.
I certainly will bring Raffy up to support gender equality. To know that his gender does not define him and that he can be whoever he wants to be. I hope that he grows up to be a man who shares in the work and the joy of having a family, should he choose to have one; is respectful and supportive of his peers, whether male or female… and can empty the bin without encouragement.